Monthly Archives: February 2012

Teaching Spotlight: Lena Sheets, Smithton Middle School

Graduate student Amy Jones shows ancient Asian artifacts to Smithton Middle School studentsLena Sheets has a master’s degree in education and teaches world cultures at Smithton Middle School in Columbia.  In December 2011, she brought 150 sixth-grade students to tour various collections on the MU campus, including Special Collections and Rare Books.  This month, we’ll hear from her and her students about their experiences with rare books and artifacts.

SC: How did you incorporate Special Collections into your teaching this semester?
Prior to going to special collections, students had been learning about the Early River Civilizations, such as  Mesopotamia, and Egypt. Students then went to Special Collections and learned various ways that early civilizations communicated.  Students wrote observations about the items they saw such as scrolls, papyrus, parchment and seals. Students then came back to school and wrote a brief story that incorporated the information they had learned about a particular piece.

What outcomes resulted from your class visits? What were the effects on your students?
Students could make the connection between history and real people and objects that they have studied.Students are much more engaged in what they are learning and are more inquisitive.  They would like to return again next year.

What advice would you give to faculty or instructors interested in using Special Collections in their courses?
If you are working with middle school students, it is important for them to have an activity to do while they visit.  The presenters were very engaging and answered a ton of questions, but it just middle school nature for students minds to wander.  With the outstanding presentation and a place to write down what they were learning, students were engaged the entire time and had great discussions when they returned.

Any additional comments or suggestions?
I think a visit to Special Collections is a great authentic experience that could fit any place in a unit, at the beginning to generate excitement or at the end to help students make real world connections outside the classroom, or even in the middle to do a little of both.

The staff  at Special Collections were so patient and accommodating. In addition, they were full of knowledge about each artifact and kept the students thinking.   I also appreciated that they took the time to let me preview the items my students would see. I couldn’t contain my enthusiasm for the trip and I only hope, I can get funding to return again next year.

Browse stories by young writers from Lena Sheets’ class below.

Know an inspiring educator or outstanding student you’d like to nominate for the Spotlight?  Email us at

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Posted in Classes, Rare Book Collection, Spotlight

Friday Food: William Kitchiner’s Recipe for Wow Wow Sauce, 1817

William Kitchiner claimed to have a medical degree, but there is no evidence of his ever actually attending university.  His eccentric, epicurean dinner parties are his primary claim to fame.  He also invented a condiment he called Wow Wow Sauce, which became popular in the nineteenth century.

Kitchiner takes scientist’s approach to cooking in The Cook’s Oracle.  He published specific instructions for cooking techniques, an explanation of the chemical processes of cooking, and a table of weights and measures.

Wow Wow Sauce for Stewed or Bouilli Beef

From The Cook’s Oracle

Chop some Parsley leaves very finely, quarter two or three pickled Cucumbers, or Walnuts, and divide them into small squares, and set them by ready; — put into a saucepan a bit of Butter as big as an egg; when it is melted, stir to it a tablespoonful of fine Flour, and about half a pint of the Broth in which the Beef was boiled ; add a tablespoonful of Vinegar, the like quantity of Mushroom Catsup, or Port Wine, or both, and a teaspoonful of made Mustard; let it simmer together till it is as thick as you wish it, put in the Parsley and Pickles to get warm, and pour it over the Beef, — or rather send it up in a Sauce-tureen.

Obs.—If you think the above not sufficiently piquante, add to it some Capers, or a minced Shallot, or one or two teaspoonsful of Shallot Wine (No. 402), — or Essence of Anchovy, — or Basil (No 397), — Elder, or Tarragon (No. 396), or Horseradish (No. 399), or Burnet Vinegar ; or strew over the meat, Carrots and Turnips cut into dice, — minced Capers, — Walnuts, — Red Cabbage, — pickled Cucumbers, — or French Beans, &c.

See the full text at the Hathi Trust

Don’t miss Food Sense, the 2012 Life Sciences and Society Symposium, March 16-18.  SCARaB will be participating with an exhibition of books on science and nutrition.

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Posted in Closed Collection, Exhibits

Friday Food: Catharine Beecher’s Recipe for Rhubarb Tart, 1846

Catharine Beecher (1800-1878), the sister of the abolitionist Harriet Beecher Stowe, was an early feminist and advocate of women’s education.  Beecher was at the forefront of the home economics movement in the nineteenth century.  She sought to increase the status of traditional women’s work such as cooking and childcare, arguing for its value to society and the need for female education to inform this work.

Beecher published her Treatise on Domestic Economy in 1841.  The book combined useful household hints with Beecher’s radical views on women’s rights and education.  Surprisingly, the book was a great success; fifteen editions were published in the next fifteen years.  As supplements to the Treatise, Beecher published several other cooking and household management books, including Miss Beecher’s Domestic Receipt Book.

Ellen’s Pudding, or Rhubarb Tart

From Miss Beecher’s Domestic Receipt Book

One pint of stewed pie plant.
Four ounces of sugar.
One half pint of cream.
Two ounces of pounded cracker.
Three eggs

Stew the pie plant, and rub it through a sieve. Beat the eggs well, and mix with the sugar and cream. Stir the cracker crumbs into the fruit, and add the other ingredients. Line your plate with a moderately rich paste, and bake half an hour.

See the full text at the Hathi Trust

Don’t miss Food Sense, the 2012 Life Sciences and Society Symposium, March 16-18.  SCARaB will be participating with an exhibition of books on science and nutrition.

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Posted in Closed Collection, Exhibits

Friday Food: Isabella Beeton’s Recipe for Baked Beef, 1861

As the oldest girl in a family of twenty-one children, Isabella Mayson (1836–1865) had ample practice in the domestic arts by the time she married Samuel Beeton at the age of 20.  Samuel was an innovative editor and publisher, and Isabella participated fully in his publishing business, putting her domestic skills to work as editor of the English Woman’s Domestic Magazine. The year after her marriage, Isabella also began work on the monumental compendium of domestic science that is The Book of Household Management.  The book was first published it in 1861, when Isabella was only 25, and it was an immediate success due to her attention to accuracy, economy, and taste.

Isabella died of childbed fever only a few years later, at the age of 28.  After her death, Samuel sold the rights to her book to the publisher Ward, Lock, and Tyler, whose intense marketing created the Victorian domestic icon that Mrs. Beeton later became.

Baked Beef (Cold Meat Cookery)

Color plate with beef dishesIngredients.—About 2 lbs. of cold roast beef, 2 small onions, 1 large carrot or two small ones, 1 turnip, a small bunch of savoury herbs, salt and pepper to taste, 4 tablespoonfuls of gravy, 3 tablespoonfuls of ale, crust or mashed potatoes.
Mode.— Cut the beef in slices, allowing a small amount of fat to each slice; place a layer of this in the bottom of a pie-dish, with a portion of the onions, carrots, and turnips, which must be sliced; mince the herbs, strew them over the meat, and season with pepper and salt. Then put another layer of meat, vegetables, and seasoning; and proceed in this manner until all the ingredients are used. Pour in the gravy and ale (water may be substituted for the former, but it is not so nice), cover with a crust or mashed potatoes, and bake for ½ hour, or rather longer.
Time.—Rather more than ½ hour.
Average cost, exclusive of the meat, 6d.
Sufficient for 5 or 6 persons.
Seasonable at any time.
Note.—It is as well to parboil the carrots and turnips before adding them to the meat, and to use some of the liquor in which they were boiled as a substitute for gravy ; that is to say, when there is no gravy at hand. Be particular to cut the onions in very thin slices.

See the full text at the Hathi Trust or Find the 1899 edition in Special Collections

Don’t miss Food Sense, the 2012 Life Sciences and Society Symposium, March 16-18.  SCARaB will be participating with an exhibition of books on science and nutrition.

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Posted in Exhibits, Rare Book Collection

Happy Birthday, Charles Dickens!

So Handsome!Charles John Huffam Dickens was born on this date in 1812. Dickens, one of the most famous and most beloved of all English novelists, created some of the most powerful characters in fiction. He is known all over the world, and, unlike most great authors, he was rock-star famous in his own time. He moved around a lot as a child and was forced to quit school at twelve years old to work in a factory. Those early memories, however, would later inspire settings both fantastic and real; characters both legendary and sympathetic.

Friends and family described Dickens as full of energy, almost frenetic, and he was able to focus this power into an amazing literary output. He began writing journalism at age 15, and by 24 he had finished the Pickwick Papers and was famous on both sides of the Atlantic.

BOZ!When Dickens began writing A Christmas Carol, perhaps his most well known work in the U.S. today, he was 31 and already the author of Sketches by Boz, The Pickwick Papers, Oliver Twist, Nicholas Nickleby, The Old Curiosity Shop, Barnaby Rudge, and American Notes.

Early in his career he adopted various pen names, the most popular of which, Boz became a nickname as well as a marketing tool. Boz knew how to play to the public and controlled not only his public appearances and persona, but also the illustrations that accompanied his work. From the beginning, Dickens worked very closely with illustrators and vetted every sketch before it went to press. In fact, more than one illustrator claimed later that they had been responsible for story elements, though the author denied this.


The first of these pairings was with George Cruikshank, a popular cartoonist at the time. The author and illustrator became great friends, though their relationship soured due to many factors including Cruikshank’s growing obsession with the Temperance movement.


Dickens started working with Robert Seymour when publishers hired him to provide the words for a series of engravings featuring cockney sporting life. Dickens argued successfully that the words should take precedence over the art. Seymour mimicked Cruikshank’s style for the occasion but was of a depressive sensibility and often in conflict with Dickens over the artwork. He had a nervous breakdown in 1830, and committed suicide upon completion of the second installment.


Perhaps the most popular collaborator, Hablot Knight Browne worked with Dickens for over 23 years. He adopted the nickname Phiz to complement Dickens’ Boz.


“No other illustrator ever created the true Dickens characters with the precise and correct quantum of exaggeration.”

– G.K. Chesterton on H.K. Browne


Charles Dickens changed the face of literary history, revolutionized popular fiction and fame, and left behind immortal masterworks that still resonate with a world of readers.

Celebrate his 200th birthday by dropping by Special Collections in Ellis Library to read the stories as Dickens so meticulously intended. We have many of his greatest works, some beautifully bound, dating from the beginning of the author’s literary career. Experience what created this pop sensation first-hand!


Dickens @ MU Special Collections!

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